|| The Patriot Ledger
|| March 11, 2013
|| Iris Fanger
Imagine a dancer's mouth opened in a silent scream, as if to echo the famous painting by Edvard Munch of a distraught figure in a landscape. Then picture this same dancer, Kathleen Breen Combes, twisting her face into contortions while a pianist plays an instrument suspended on a platform on stilts, ten feet above the stage. The title of the piece is "Tar and Feathers" and there's nary a point shoe in sight, nor a conventional ballet costume, unless you count the white plastic tutus on the quintet that enters at the end of it.
Welcome to the world of famed Czech-born dance maker, Jiri Kylian, resident choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater, and a hero to Boston Ballet director Mikko Nissinen. With this program of a trio of his works, the company now has a repertory of nine Kylian pieces to carry his banner. Nissinen has set the challenges high for his troupe because the dancers are also in rehearsal for "The Sleeping Beauty" which opens in less than a month.
The three works on the "All Kylian" program range from the opening piece, the 1997 "Wings of Wax," created to a put-together score by various composers, including Heinrich von Biber, John Cage, Philip Glass, and Johann Sebastian Bach, to the 2006 "Tar and Feathers," to the sumptuous "Symphony of Psalms," by composer, Igor Stravinsky, accompanied by the Boston Ballet orchestra and the New World Chorale. This beautiful and spiritual piece for 16 dancers, which ended the evening, is backed by a huge curtain of colorful Persian rugs hung from ceiling to floor. Created by Kylian in 1978, "Symphony of Psalms" comes closest to the recognizable images of ballet. Unlike the other works on the program, the dancers move in wide, unison patterns, often dropping to their knees in prayer, or taking space-devouring leaps as they cross the stage and back again. Yury Yanowsky and Braintree's Sabi Varga broke from the ranks of the men for brief duets with their partners. The piece ends with the dancers exiting the nearly bare stage, left glistening in a golden light.
The eight dancers in "Wings of Wax" delivered the fast-moving phrases and gestures under a life-sized, bare-branched tree hanging upside down in the center of the stage, with a large spotlight moving in a circle around it. If you want to consider the light as the sun, and find symbols of the flight of Icarus, as my companion wisely suggested, you can do so. However, Kylian and his works are hard to peg to specifics. The four couples were led by a group of the company's most accomplished women: principal dancers Combes and Lia Cirio, Whitney Jensen, and Emily Mistretta. Cirio, Combes, and Jensen also appeared as the cast of "Tar and Feathers." The intrepid pianist suspended on that platform to play the snatches of Mozart and improvise the score on a "prepared piano" is Tomoko Mukaiyama, the only musician ever allowed to play the work.
Whether a work like "Tar and Feathers," which asks for patience from its viewers in a struggle to understand the strange doings on stage, is right for Boston can remain an open question.
ALL KYLIAN Boston Ballet at Boston Opera House through 17. Tickets $137-$29 at www.bostonballet.org or call 617-695-6955.